Wild Goose Chorizo with tequila and pork

Chorizo made with wild Canada goose, pork, and tequila. Awesome for Taco Tuesdays!

Chorizo made with wild Canada goose, pork, and tequila. Awesome for Taco Tuesdays!

I know, usually I write about what I’m drinking, but this is one of those domestic badassery moments that my friends Cosmopolitan and Pink Lady always request I share with all y’all. I think its the chronic mess and mayhem factor of my life they find so amusing. Here’s to you, girlfriends!

Early morning decoy setup.

Early morning decoy setup.

The week before Christmas our family went on a waterfowl hunt near Ft. Collins, Colorado with badass hunting guide and hilarious human Tad Stout from Good Times Guide Service. My husband hunts with Tad a few times a year, often with clients for “work” [ahem], and our boys have gone along on a handful of hunts. This was my second time in their blind with the guys, but this year was a first for me and for my 10-year-old son to be active shooters. Although the weather didn’t cooperate for optimal goose hunting—only waterfowl hunters and skiers bitch about the weather being too warm and sunny—we still hauled in several geese, a handful of ducks, and during mid-day downtime the boys nailed some fat rabbits.

Making friends in the duck blind. Good dog, Lad!

Making friends in the duck blind. Good dog, Lad!

Yes, friends, you may have caught that little scheduling fact on the first read-through: the week before Christmas. Who in the hell plans a gear-intensive hunting trip with the kids AND dogs along, especially when the family expects the usual holiday hoopla? Well, apparently my husband does. AND, my in-laws were arriving from out of town the morning after we get back, which also happened to be my birthday. In addition to our house looking like fucking Cabelas had exploded out of the laundry room and all over the garage, I still had to finish cleaning up [our guide Tad did the up-front dismembering grunt work, thankyoubabyJesus] and prepping for the freezer the meat from eight geese, five ducks, and four rabbits, plus Tad very generously sent us home with two additional gallon freezer bags full of goose breast meat. But I still had to get it all done, done, done. Over Christmas. Cleaned up the rabbits [they were a mess, since they boys hunted ‘em with shotguns], into the freezer. BAM. Cleaned up the duck meat, went as-is into the freezer. Ka-POW.

Nice haul, guys!

Nice haul, guys!

Started the sausage-making process for my usual parade of goose charcuterie in hog casings: an Italian-style red wine sausage, Andouille with moonshine to pop in the smoker [a story for another day], and a garlic and sage-forward breakfast sausage. Hot Damn. By the time I’d gotten through all of those, I was so damn tired of cleaning out hog casings and sanitizing the stuffer yet another time—during Christmas— I went for my loose goose raw sausage fallback: chorizo.

I love chorizo. It’s the perfect blend of smoke, heat, and meat with just enough fat to keep things a little naughty. Whether first thing in the morning alongside some soft scrambled eggs and flour tortillas, or in place of ground beef or venison in tacos or chili, it’s all good. I’ve seen it sold in uncooked sausage links, in smoked links, and without casings, but it’s actually a pretty simple example of charcuterie to make at home for most cooks with basic equipment. Chorizo has become my go-to staple for the last few pounds of game meat—antelope, goose, whatever—that I’m not quite sure what to with and am in no mood to get out the sausage stuffer and set up the whole curing set-up: I just grind up the game with some pork fat, a heavy hand with the spice, and a splash of tequila, and it all gets portioned up raw and sealed for the freezer in under an hour. Done and done, friends. A little glug of tequila blanco in the chorizo, a big glug with a squeeze of lime and a pinch of salt for mama’s glass, and everyone’s happy. And we did end up having a very lovely Christmas, in spite of the Cabelas laundry overload and a kitchen full of butchering equipment.

I love this grinder! No more pushing the KitchenAid to its limits.

I love this grinder! No more pushing the KitchenAid to its limits.

This recipe is adapted loosely from the chorizo recipe in Michael Ruhlman & Bryan Polcyn’s Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing. Like with most of the game sausage I make, I add quite a bit of pork shoulder, butt, and backfat for flavor and texture, since wild game is so lean and tends to get dry and crumbly without the added fat. For a gazillion reasons, please consider buying your pork [and hell, beef, lamb, chicken, eggs, whatevs] from a small local producer with responsible animal husbandry practices. I get my pork from Utah Natural Meat. Check ‘ em out; they’re doing delicious work. Any good white [unaged] tequila will do; I used Utah-owned VIDA tequila for this batch [yum for sausage, and for cocktails!].

Wild Goose Chorizo with tequila and pork

[makes about 5 pounds]

2 ½ lbs. goose meat, cleaned and trimmed

1 ½ lbs. pork shoulder

1 lb. pork backfat

1 ½ oz. kosher salt [3 Tbs.]

2 Tbs. ancho chile powder

1 Tbs. smoked paprika

1 Tbs. chipotle chile powder

1 Tbs. finely minced garlic

1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

1 tsp. dried oregano

½ tsp. ground cumin

¼ cup tequila blanco, chilled in freezer

2 ½ Tbs. red wine vinegar, chilled in freezer

Method: cut up all goose meat and pork shoulder into 1” cubes, and pork fat into ½” or smaller dice [this will ensure good even grinding]. Combine meat with all of the remaining ingredients except for tequila and vinegar. Cover and keep chilled until ready to grind [I like to wait at least 24 hrs for flavors to develop].

A little VIDA tequila blanco for the chorizo. A good sized glug goes in Mama's glass, of course!

A little VIDA tequila blanco for the chorizo. A good sized glug goes in Mama’s glass, of course!

Before grinding, set grinder parts and collection bowl in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. Grind the entire mixture through the small die of the grinder into a bowl set in ice. Immediately add the chilled tequila and vinegar, and mix thoroughly with the paddle attachment of a stand mixture or put some muscle behind using a sturdy wooden spoon. Keep mixing until the mixture has developed a uniform, sticky appearance [this means all of the fat is well-distributed].

If you want to adjust seasoning, take a pinch of sausage and sauté it in a skillet until cooked through and then taste.

The guys got me one of these fab vacuum sealer dohickies for my birthday. I'm sealing EVERYTHING now. Even if it doesn't need it. Just 'cause it's So. Fun.

The guys got me one of these fab vacuum sealer dohickies for my birthday. I’m sealing EVERYTHING now. Even if it doesn’t need it. Just ’cause it’s So. Fun.

Portion the chorizo into freezer storage bags, remove all air, and freeze or refrigerate immediately.

Disclaimer: Good Times Guide Service, Utah Natural Meat, and VIDA Tequila did not pay me to say these great things about their services and products. I just think they’re wonderful.

Darby’s Bourbon Pie

Let’s get this straight right from the start: This is NOT a “Derby Pie” [trademarked beyond belief] recipe

This is NOT D#rby Pie. It's got bourbon, and chocolate, and pecans. My kind of pie.

This is NOT D#rby Pie. It’s got bourbon, and chocolate, and sorghum, and pecans. My kind of pie.

This week’s H.O.A.G.Y [Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?] has been a long time coming.  Last year right after the Kentucky Derby, my girlfriend from college Peach Mimosa* wrote to me:

 Hey, Bourbon Gal! Do you have a good ‘Derby Pie’ recipe aka bourbon chocolate pecan pie? We have a new pie store in town & they said they’ve never heard of it — so I want to give them a good recipe for next year.

See, she’s originally from Louisiana, but is now living in Ohio—like, far northern Ohio—where they don’t get access to yummy treats from just across the river like their southern Ohio compatriots. Most folks outside of the tri-state area of Kentuck-Oh-Indiana don’t realize just how much cultural back-n-forth goes on across the Ohio River regardless of modern map boundaries. In fact, the Cincinnati [Ohio] airport is actually across the bridge in northern Kentucky, where apparently land was cheaper and people are less sensitive to the noise. Or, just aren’t as many of ‘em with political clout to complain about it.

A 1949 edition of "Out of Kentucky Kitchens," one of my favorite vintage cookbooks.

A 1949 edition of “Out of Kentucky Kitchens,” one of my favorite vintage cookbooks.

But, back to the pie. What Peach Mimosa is asking for is a pie made by the Kearns Family, proprietors of The Melrose Inn in Prospect, Kentucky since the 1950s. Kern’s Kitchen, which registered the name in 1968, has exclusive rights to the name “Derby Pie,” and the recipe, which is about as fiercely guarded as a Mormon teenager’s chastity. It surely contains chocolate, corn syrup, and chopped up walnuts in a pastry crust, according to the inheritors of the trademark and recipe. They have taken on encroachers on the trademark—including Bon Appetit magazine and many a cookbook—in court and won dozens of times. I just read on Wikipedia that,

In May 2013, the Electronic Frontier Foundation inducted Kern’s Kitchen into their “Takedown Hall of Shame”, claiming that “the company behind the most litigious confection in America is going after individual websites that post new recipes for derby pies.

That gorgeous layer of dark chocolate on the bottom of the pie gets all gooey and mixed in with the filling while baking.

That gorgeous layer of dark chocolate on the bottom of the pie gets all gooey and mixed in with the filling while baking.

Holy shit, y’all. I’m reluctant to take on even the remote possibility that my little blog can go balls out on The Man. Friends, what we’re making here is decidedly NOT a frickin’ D#rby Pie. In fact, why don’t we just call it what my recipe is: Dark Chocolate-based Bourbon Pecan Pie—which has lots of things not in the contested recipe, and more things that I like. It’s something I’ve tweaked over the years, using a combination of recipes from two of my favorite southern cookbooks: “Best of the Best from Kentucky,” edited by McKee & Moseley (1993), and “Out of Kentucky Kitchens,” by Marion Flexner (1949). Oh, and last year I started making it with a combination of sorghum and agave syrup, instead of dark corn syrup, at the request of my friend Pink Lady, whose family is all up in my grill about corn syrup in, well, anything.

Here y’all go!

Darby's Bourbon Pie: ready to go in the oven!

Darby’s Bourbon Pie: ready to go in the oven!

Darby’s Bourbon Pie

1 unbaked pie crust

½ cup good quality dark chocolate, chopped

1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup sugar

3 eggs, beaten

¼ cup agave syrup

½ cup sorghum [or molasses]

½ teaspoon kosher salt

3 Tbs. bourbon

About 1 cup whole large pecan halves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place unbaked pie shell in a large, deep, pie pan. Spread chocolate in an even layer in the bottom of the pie shell. Cream together butter and sugar. Slowly add eggs and all other ingredients EXCEPT for pecans. Pour batter [it will be runny] slowly into the shell so as not to dislodge the chocolate. Place the pecans gently onto the surface of the pie evenly [I like to make a series of pretty concentric rings starting from the outside, going in]. Bake at 375 degrees for 40-50 minutes. The pie will still be a little jiggly. Let sit at room temperature for at least one hour to set slightly before serving. Traditionally, pecan pies are served with whipped cream. This one is so very sweet that I like it with a little dollop of crème fraîche, instead.

*Yes, cocktail geeks: technically a “peach mimosa” would be a Bellini cocktail. However, this one that reminds me of my friend is made with equal parts orange juice and peach nectar with a splash of peach liqueur. And, I think “peach mimosa” sounds better than “orange Bellini.” So there. Recipe soon…

I just found this sorghum supplier on the internet via Amazon.com Delicious product AND they sent it well packaged, super fast, and with the loveliest thank you note for my business. And no, they didn't pay me to say this, I just think they are wonderful.

I just found this sorghum supplier on the internet via Amazon.com Delicious product AND they sent it well packaged, super fast, and with the loveliest thank you note for my business. And no, they didn’t pay me to say this, I just think they are wonderful.

It doesn't last long in our house. Mmmm.

It doesn’t last long in our house. Mmmm.

New York Sour

Classic New York Sour made with rye whiskey and homemade sour mix

Classic New York Sour made with rye whiskey and homemade sour mix

This week’s H.O.A.G.Y. (Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?) comes via the ABG Instagram feed [@abourbongal] from a local cutie, Sparkling Rosé. Here’s her request:

“I’m throwing a birthday party for a friend. I want to have semi-fancy cocktails but I don’t want them to take forever to make; there will be a lot of people at the event and I’m the only bar tender [ABG note:  you go, girl!]. Have you ever made homemade sour mix?! I was thinking a New York Sour would be fun and easy.”

Sours ARE fun and easy! And really goddam delicious. Several bars in the SLC make delicious New York-style sours, two of my favorites being Whiskey Street and The Copper Onion. A couple of weeks ago we made a Tullahoma Whiskey Sour for my dear friend Strawberry Julep, but that was makin’ one cocktail, not prepping for a crowd. Commercial sour mixes are, IMHO, cloyingly sweet and thick. Some have tons of corn syrup, and lots of preservatives to keep them shelf stable. Once you’ve tasted fresh-made sour mix, you’ll be able to spot the bright notes of just-squeezed citrus quicker than a 75% off sale at H&M and it makes all the difference in the freakin’ world. Except for the run to Costco for your bags of lemons & limes [you’re going anyway, right?], and squeezing all those suckers, making the sour mix is dead simple.

The New York Sour makes for a terrific Valentine’s cocktail** or, in Sparkling Rosé’s case, a festive party drink. Why? Well, it’s got a nice sweet-sour balance point, making it perfect for soirées when you don’t know if you’ll have guests who like super-sweet cocktails or will be serving purists who just want some high-proof bourbon, served neat. The finishing float of red wine makes it super pretty AND festive. As booze historian David Wondrich describes, back in the day [like, the mid and later 1800s] barkeeps claimed all of their New York sours were topped with “the claret ‘snap’” –really any fruity red wine fancily declared ‘claret’ no matter the origin, but a Bordeaux works especially well in this application. It’s a fun bit of drinks history: the ‘sour’ is a fancy single-mixed drink adaptation of the ubiquitous Punch during the Victorian age. It’s kind of a proto-cocktail. The recipe I use is loosely based on the one Wondrich quotes in his cocktails history bible Imbibe! [p. 103], which he found in the 1869 Steward & Barkeeper’s Manual:

One wine glass [2 oz.] of spirits

Half wine glass [1 oz.] of water

One Tablespoonful of sugar

Half of a lemon

Method: “Squeeze a portion of the lemon into the tumbler, which should be a quarter full of ice, and rub the lemon on the rim of the glass. Stir with a spoon…. In the manufacture of fixes and sours a small bar-glass or ordinary tumbler is employed.”

ABG note: wine glasses were really freaking tiny back in the day, right?

So, basically the barkeep was mixing up impromptu simple syrup with just a bit more than equal portion of citrus. And sours can be made with brandy, gin, amaretto, rum, applejack [The New Jersey Sour], just about any liquor, although the New York Sour was traditionally made with rye. In making homemade sour mix, I’ve found that the ratio of simple syrup to citrus is just about right at two parts syrup to three parts citrus. As noted before when making drinks in the ‘sours’ category, a little pinch of salt gives a great tart pinch to cocktails.

 *Homemade Sour Mix: makes about 2 ½  cups [about 20 oz.] of sour mix for 10-12 cocktails.

Here’s my super-basic recipe for homemade sour mix. Really, the ratios depend on what kind of citrus I’ve got on hand, and what I’m mixing with. More lemon goes great with whiskey, more lime with tequila. I’ve made great sour mix using grapefruit and lemon for amaretto sours. I’m sure you know the trick about microwaving citrus for 10+ seconds and rolling it to extract the most juice, ’cause you are a bar god/goddess. Own it!sourMix

Make a simple syrup with 1 cup boiling water mixed with 1 cup sugar. Stir to dissolve, and let cool to room temp. Meanwhile, juice 1 generous cup freshly squeezed lemon juice [4-5 large juicy lemons], and 1/2 cup juice from fresh-squeezed limes [4 limes].  Or, whatever ratio of citrus you like that gets you 2 parts simple syrup to 3 parts citrus juice. Strain the citrus through a fine mesh strainer to remove seeds and pulp. Mix citrus and syrup together [I like shaking & storing it in a quart mason jar], and it will keep in the fridge for weeks.

New York Sour

The great thing about mixing drinks at home [especially in Utah], is that you can mix them to YOUR taste, not to the letter o’ the state liquor law. So, fair warning, this drink is a bit stiffer than the one you’ll be served at a bar in the Beehive state. The egg white is totally optional – I’ve got fresh eggs coming out the wahzoo from my backyard hens so I’m not worried about cooties—it just gives the drink a little more velvety body and helps the wine “float.” If I’m making drinks for a crowd I leave the egg out ‘cause it’s a total pain in the ass to crack all of ‘em perfectly and you don’t want ANY yolk ending up in your drink [yellow strings of egg = gross].

2 oz. rye whiskey

1.5 -2.0 oz. homemade sour mix*

0.5 oz. Disaronno [or amaretto liqueur]

1 egg white [optional]

Tiny pinch of sea salt

0.5 oz. rich fruity red wine [like Bordeaux]

New York Sour

New York Sour

Add all ingredients except the wine to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake like crazy. Strain into a highball glass or tumbler filled with fresh ice. Pour wine slowly over the back of a spoon to “float” on top of the cocktail.

 ** In case you are color blind, never go to the ‘seasonal’ aisle in the store, or don’t have a calendar, I’ll remind you that Valentine’s Day is THIS Friday, y’all. It’s hard to believe, but it was just about this time last year that I’d started this here blog [I know! A year!], and posted a rant on why y’all should avoid restaurants for V-day, and might choose to make “Oh, You Sexy Beets!” Dirty Martinis at home, instead. It’s a tougher sell this year, since a Friday or Saturday holiday doesn’t get the middle-of-the-week buy-out. Sucks to be you. I also recently posted a blog over at my other gig at cityhomeCOLLECTIVE about Chocolate-centric stuff you can do all this month in the SLC. Why save the romance for one day? 

Cranberry Nation

Cranberries Three Ways: in an Old-Fashioned, Sugared, and in a Cranberry-Rum ginger jam that is amazeballs instead of that jiggly canned shit served at Thanksgiving.  Trust me.  It’s also delightful stirred into rum cocktails, or into club soda with a dash of bitters for a gorgeous spritzer.

Cranberry-Clementine Old Fashioned.  Mid-century style (photo by Tristan Shepherd).

Cranberry-Clementine Old Fashioned. Mid-century style (photo by Tristan Shepherd).

My super-hip friends Fat Tire Ale and Cosmopolitan recently asked me to curate—which it seems is a fancy-schmancy word used everywhere now for ‘make shit up’ as opposed to the ‘curatorial’ work I did in museums, anyhoooo—the cocktails for a holiday party they hosted recently at their gorgeous mid-century modern house.  I was MORE than happy to do so, and even more excited about the substantial research and testing needed to get the job done.  I suffer for y’all.  Really I do.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been experimenting with making a cranberry jam.  Cranberries are perfect for canning projects: they are easy to process (no peeling, seeding, etc.), take on flavor well, and already have a lot of natural pectin, which means they gel delightfully well.  As I often do, I referenced the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (ed by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine) to make sure my acid levels would be appropriate for canning to avoid the cooties.  In case you hadn’t heard:  Botulism sucks. Avoid it.  If you are a beginning canner, or just want to have pretty much The Bible of Canning on hand, THIS, my friends, is the book for you.   Here are the recipes I came up with, based very loosely on the Ball book’s Cranberry Rum Sauce.

Cranberry-Clementine Old-Fashioned

My buddy Ramos Gin Fizz and I, all fancied up.  Classic polaroid.  (photo by Cody Derrick)

My buddy Ramos Gin Fizz and I, all fancied up. Classic polaroid. (photo by Cody Derrick)

For the full story on my Old Fashioned experience, see the piece that I wrote for CityHomeCollective this week.  Apologies in advance to my in-laws: they are wonderful, talented, loving people.  They are just not-so-great bartenders.  

Rub ½ of the rim of a lowball glass with ¼ of a Clementine wedge;

dip the citrus-coated rim of the glass in turbinado sugar to coat.

To a short glass add:

juice of ¼ Clementine wedge (drop it into the glass, if you want to be like Don Draper’s daughter)

3 dashes bitters

½ tsp. cranberry jam (or cranberry sauce)

½ tsp sugar

Stir with a spoon until sugar dissolves.

Add 2 oz. bourbon

3-4 cubes ice

Top with an optional tiny baby splash of club soda.

Stir gently to combine.

Garnish with 2-3 sugared cranberries*.

Cranberry Jam with ginger and citrus.  If you have a few tablespoons left from canning, it's terrific on toast, or mixed into a rum-citrus cocktail with a little ginger beer floater.

Cranberry Jam with ginger and citrus. If you have a few tablespoons left from canning, it’s terrific on toast, or mixed into a rum-citrus cocktail with a little ginger beer floater.

Cranberry-Rum Jam with ginger and citrus

Makes nine or ten 8oz. jars

3 lg. (6”) cinnamon sticks, broken into 2” pieces

12 whole allspice berries

9 whole cloves

4 ½ cups granulated sugar

2- 2/3 cups water

12 cups fresh cranberries

3 large apples (sweet or tart, or a combo), peeled, cored, and chopped

1 ½ cups rum

2 Tbs. fresh grated ginger

Zest of 1 orange

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 envelope liquid fruit pectin

Prepare canner, jars and lids for water bath canning.

My Canning Bible.

My Canning Bible.

Make a spice bundle with a large square of cheesecloth: add cinnamon sticks, allspice, and cloves.

To a very large non-reactive saucepan, add sugar, water, and spice bag.  Bring to a boil, and stir constantly until sugar dissolves.  Reduce heat, and boil gently for 5 minutes.

Add cranberries and apples, and return to boil.  Boil on med-low gently, stirring frequently to avoid scorching, for about 15-20 minutes, or until cranberries have burst and the apples are very tender.

Remove the spice bag, and remove pan from heat.  Add the rum to the pan.  Purée until smooth using an immersion blender (or in batches- careful!!!- in a regular blender).  Add the ginger, orange zest, and vanilla extract. Stir to combine.

Bring to a high boil that cannot be stirred down (as for jam), add the liquid pectin, and stir constantly to avoid scorching.  Boil hard for one minute, then remove from heat.

Ladle hot jam into jars leaving ¼” headspace.  Wipe rims, add new sterilized lids and clean rings.  Tighten to fingertip tight.

Process in boiling water bath canner for sea-level baseline 15 minutes (adjust for altitude wherever you are!).  Turn off the heat, and remove canner lid.  Let jars sit in canner 5 minutes.  Remove jars, cool, and store for up to one year.

Sugared Cranberries

To make sugared cranberries:  whisk together 1 egg white and 1 Tbs. water in a medium bowl until frothy.

Throw 1 cup cranberries in the egg-water and toss to coat; shake off the excess egg by letting it drip through your fingers.

Immediately toss the cranberries with 1 cup turbinado or sanding sugar until evenly coated.  Set out in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet to harden for 24 hours.  Store for up to one week on the cookie sheet or in a vented container (if it’s sealed tightly, the sugar will melt).

Salted Butter Pecan-Bourbon Ice Cream

How much do I love Ben & Jerry’s ice cream?  Well, a lot.  Sure, there are some really amazing frozen sweets purveyors out there now, but I adore Ben & Jerry’s for their nostalgia factor.  I can still remember trying Cherry Garcia for the first time, The Macallan and I sharing a pint and two spoons on a lazy western Washington afternoon.

Salted Butter Pecan-Bourbon Ice Cream.  Yup, it's pretty tasty.

Salted Butter Pecan-Bourbon Ice Cream. Yup, it’s pretty tasty.

A few years ago, my boys got me an ice cream freezer bowl insert to go with my stand mixer—this gift being one in a long line of kitchen gadgets given in the hopes that they would benefit as taste testers from my use of it.  I make ice cream all year-round, and keep the clean freezer canister in my basement trunk freezer so it’s glacial cold and ready to go at a moment’s notice.I didn’t, however, LOVE making ice cream until I picked up a copy of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book.

Workman Publishing (1987)

Workman Publishing (1987)

Most of the ice cream recipes I’d used up until then involved lengthy custard-making and tempering on the stove instructions, followed by extended cooling times, making the ice cream experience a day-long affair.   Ben & Jerry cut right to the chase: as long as you use really great ingredients and a SUPER cold (again, your case freezer is your friend) finishing freeze, you can make superb ice cream within an hour.  And rarely use your stovetop.  Using their recipe bases, I only have to clean two vessels:  the stand mixing bowl, and the freezer bowl.  Done and done, my friends.

One of my favorite adaptations from their cookbook is Butter Pecan Ice Cream.  It’s not for everyone: you can both taste and FEEL the little beads of butter bursting on your tongue.  I use a combination of white and brown sugar for the ice cream base, and add a bit of bourbon (of course!).  I’ve experimented with a few different kinds of salt, and enjoy the savory edge of smoked sea salts in this recipe- just use a pale colored salt, otherwise your ice cream will look muddy.

Neither KitchenAid, nor Maker's Mark, nor Bourbon Barrel Foods, nor my hens have paid me to promote their products.  I just like their stuff.

Neither KitchenAid, nor Maker’s Mark, nor Bourbon Barrel Foods, nor my hens have paid me to promote their products. I just like their stuff.

Salted Butter Pecan-Bourbon Ice Cream  (Makes 1 generous quart). 

½ cup (1 stick) butter

1 cup pecan halves

½  tsp. smoked sea salt (plus extra for garnish)

2 large fresh eggs

½ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup light brown sugar, packed

1 ½ cups heavy or whipping cream

1 ½ cups half-and-half

2 Tbs. bourbon

Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over low heat.  Add the pecans and salt and sauté, stirring constantly, until the pecans start to turn brown and are crisp, but don’t overcook or they’ll be soggy in the final product (yuck!).  Drain off the butter into a small bowl and reserve; put the drained pecans in another bowl and cool.

Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes); whisk in the sugars a little at a time and continue blending until completely combined (about 1 minute more).  With the mixer on low speed, pour in the bourbon, cream, and half-and-half, increase speed to medium and pour in the butter in a narrow stream; whisk for another minute.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer’s instructions.

After the ice cream stiffens (about 2 minutes before it is done), add the pecans, then continue freezing until the ice cream is ready.

Sprinkle a little pinch more sea salt on top of each serving. 

Butter-Mint “Meltaway” cookies

Sweet Nostalgia: Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book (1963)

This was my first cookbook: One of my favorite vintage cookbooks.  Thanks, mom!

Well, not the one photographed here.  That primordial one would still be with my mom (Grey Goose & Diet Tonic, Lime).  Egg white-warped and vanilla stained from decades of use, it’s still shelved in her tidy Louisville kitchen.  But GG&DTL did go on eBay a few years ago and find vintage editions for my brother, sister, and I as Christmas gifts a few years ago.  Yup, my mom’s pretty awesome like that.

In fact, the first recipe I remember truly and epically failing was from this cookbook:  lemon bars.  When you are 8 years old semi-confidently baking on your own and use 1 Tablespoon of salt rather than 1 teaspoon, you will never forget the resulting humbling yuck.  And the sibling smack talk.

Long ago I decided that if I’m going to bake, I’m going to go with some known results, and for that, my friends, Betty Crocker’s got your back.  Every. Damn. Time (excepting for user error).  I’ve found a handful of tried-and-true cookie recipes from this magnificent pastry compendium.  After all, it’s sub-titled “A Complete Collection – for All Occasions, for Every Taste.”

True, that.

The only things I’ve modified from the original 1963 publication are that I always use unsalted sweet cream butter (rather than the margarine/shortening, or as my grandma Beefeater &Tonic calls it, “oleo”), and I often use a pinch less sugar and a pinch more salt than the recipes call for to adapt for the butter shift.

If your mom hasn’t already sent you a copy, go and find one for yourself.  You will be the hit of the next mid-century modern cocktail party in the desert category.  Unless some talented wombat one-ups you with a Baked Alaska.  This has happened to me.  Sigh.

For the beery brunch the bev-blogger Hoss on Hops and I recently collaborated on, these Buttery Mint cookies were perfect for serving with a chocolaty stout.

Butter-Mint “Meltaway” Cookies (makes about 4 dozen)

Butter-Mint "Meltaway" cookies are great with a chocolate stout.  Thanks for the photo, Hoss!

Butter-Mint “Meltaway” cookies are great with a chocolate stout. Thanks for the photo, Hoss!

I make a triple-batch of these every time*Adapted from Betty Crocker’s 1963 edition Cooky Book

1 cup unsalted butter

½ cup powdered sugar (plus additional for dusting)

1 tsp. peppermint extract

½  tsp. (or more) green food coloring

2 ¼ cups cake flour

¼ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar, mix until combined and fluffy.  With the beaters going, add peppermint extract and food coloring a drop or two at a time (it will splatter!).  Sift together flour and salt, and then add to the butter mixture ½ cup or so at a time.

Mold the cookie dough into walnut-sized balls (a great kid project).  Place on ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake about 8 minutes- until set but not brown.  While still warm, dip and roll in more confectioners’ sugar to coat.

*These freeze really well to keep on hand for cookie entertaining emergencies.  Like hosting an impromptu beer party on a Sunday morning, for instance.

A Proper (and Improper) Mint Julep

Some people have fancy silver Julep cups passed down through many generations.  I have canning jars.

Some people have fancy silver Julep cups passed down through many generations. I have canning jars.

Towards the end of April I start getting all nostalgic about Kentucky Derby’s of my youth, singing (well, warbling) “My Old Kentucky Home,” and the weeks of debauchery Louisville celebrates leading up to the big day.  I’m getting misty eyed just thinking about it, but my friends here in Utah don’t quite get the appeal.  There’s a lot to love about my adopted mountain state, but a tradition of extended whiskey-soaked revelry is just not one of them.  And don’t y’all EVEN tell me Pioneer Day rallies the same hedonistic enthusiasm.  Just stop it.  Now.

Doesn't every 18 year old go through a phase when they want to be a great travel writer?  I read this the summer between high school and college and it blew my mind.  And gave me all sorts of ideas...

Doesn’t every 18 year old go through a phase when they want to be a great travel writer? I read this the summer between high school and college and it blew my mind. And gave me all sorts of ideas…

What’s Derby like?  Well, if you haven’t already, it’s a moral imperative you read Hunter S. Thompson’s 1970 essay, “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.”  It’s a marvel of sports reporting and travel journalism wrapped up in complete and utter sublime bullshit that stands the test of time more than forty years later.  And it’s Hunter S. Thompson drinking whiskey for three straight days.  See, nothing like Pioneer Day.

My secret to a fantastic Mint Julep?  Don’t kill your mint!  When I see someone grinding mint with a mortar into the bottom of a glass I just cringe.  It makes the mint bitter, and plus all of those little mint pieces invariably get stuck in your teeth and who wants that when you are wearing bright red lipstick and a fabulous hat?  A pert spank will do, instead, if you make minted simple syrup a day in advance.  You’ll love this stuff:  in addition to making superlative Juleps, minted syrup is perfect in Mojitos, iced tea, lemonade, and Arnold Palmers.

Minted Simple Syrup

In a big bowl or quart glass pyrex measure, add 2 cups boiling water to 2 cups granulated sugar.  Mix with a wooden spoon until sugar is completely dissolved.  Meanwhile, place 4-5 big sprigs of fresh mint in a quart-sized Mason or other lidded glass jar.  Once the sugar syrup is cool enough to touch comfortably with your fingers, pour over the mint.  Cool to room temperature, place the lid on the jar, and set in the refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight.  Remove mint leaves, and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Minted simple syrup.  Boozemongering at it's finest, my friends.  You will use this freakalicious syrup in everything!

Minted simple syrup. Boozemongering at it’s finest, my friends. You will use this freakalicious syrup in everything!

A Proper Mint Julep

2-3 sprigs fresh mint

2 oz. Kentucky Bourbon

2-3 oz. minted simple syrup

“Spank” a sprig of mint between your hands (as if you are clapping), place in the bottom of a chilled silver Julep cup.  Fill the cup to the rim with crushed ice.  Slowly pour over the ice at the same time 2 oz. Kentucky Bourbon and 2-3 oz. minted syrup.  Spank another mint sprig and add as a garnish.  Gently stir the cocktail with a long handled stirrer until combined.

*Julep purists look away now.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you! 

I love making Juleps with Rye whiskey, too.  It gives them a little more bite, and is a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the mint.

How pretty is that?!  The Strawberry Julep is perfect cocktail for a dinner by the grill, backyard bash, or lazy afternoon.

How pretty is that?! The Strawberry Julep is perfect cocktail for a dinner by the grill, backyard bash, or lazy afternoon.

An “Improper” Strawberry Julep

I made this cocktail for my girlfriends who complained that a traditional julep was too strong.  Meaning, they don’t like the taste of bourbon.  Sigh.  Convinced that I could make a bourbon-based cocktail they’d like, I threw this baby together.  Now everybody’s happy.

2 sprigs fresh mint

2 very ripe strawberries (plus an additional one for garnish)

1 ½ oz. bourbon

2 oz. minted simple syrup

Splash of club soda

In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle two small very ripe strawberries until they are smooshy.  Add bourbon and mint syrup, one sprig of mint, and 2-3 cubes of ice.  Shake about 5-6 seconds.  Strain cocktail into a highball glass or Mason jar filled with ice.  Garnish with a sprig of “spanked” mint, a strawberry sliced almost in half to perch on the rim of your glass, and a splash of club soda if desired.